Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Who Knows Better?

The problem with us as God's people is that we have always tended to think that we're pretty smart. We can look at a situation and figure out a good solution and know what it is that we think we're supposed to do. 

The trouble comes when we actually do it.

For example, look at the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. As Israel approached the Promised Land - the land that God Himself said was good and was a gift to His people - these three tribes looked at the land they were already passing through and thought, you know, this is pretty good land right here. What we need is to settle down and build some cities here where it's good, where we don't have to fight off any more enemy nations, where there seems to be some peace. 

They got permission to do it, and so they did. All Israel waited for these three tribes to build, secure, and settle down in this land before moving on. We know that because part of the deal these three tribes got was that if they got to settle in this land, they had to lead the fight for the Promised Land to give to their brothers. They could not come back to rest here until everyone else was settled over there. 

Which means...Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh saw the full glory of the Promised Land, of everything God was going to give them, and they doubled down on their own plan by returning to the towns they had built on the other side of the Jordan.

And it's not like they couldn't foresee some potential problems with this. After everyone got settled and these three tribes crossed back over the Jordan to their own towns, the first thing they did was to build an enormous altar so that the rest of Israel could see it from their side and remember that these three tribes were part of them. They were still Israel, they insisted - just on this side of the Jordan. They didn't want to be cut off from their brothers.

Yet, this is exactly what happened. When Israel turned away from the Lord, these were among the first tribes to turn away. When she was sent into exile, these were the first tribes taken. 

Although they had the safety and security of the walls they'd built around their greener pastures, they didn't have the promise of the Promised Land, and they were sitting ducks. Literally. Backed against the Jordan on one side, cut off from their brothers, cut off from their God, cut off from their Promise. It doesn't take a lot to conquer a people like that, no matter how good they think their land is. 

We do this all the time. We look at the place where God is leading us, and it's glorious, but then we look around and realize that where we are isn't too bad, either. In fact, it's pretty good. It's even better because we're already here. It's the trap of contentment, among other things - a confusing theology that tells us we're better off to be content wherever we are, drawing likely on the words of Paul who said he learned to be content no matter what the circumstances. So we become content with where we are, and we lose sight of where we're going. We think we know best, since this is good, too, and we build our walls around what look like greener pastures - touring through the Promised Land only to come home to the beds we've made for ourselves. 

And we're sitting ducks. Cut off from the best God has to give us, backed against walls of our own making, we're here just waiting to be picked off because this wasn't God's plan for us; it was our own. We've lost out on not only His greatness, but His protection and His promise and His glory because we've settled for something that looks good. (And we've called it God, ironically, because, well, God is good, isn't He? Certainly, He wants us to have good things.)

Yes, He wants us to have good things, but He also wants us to have great things. Glorious things. Promised things. Amazing things. Grace. 

So we have to stop thinking we know better. We have to stop thinking we have it all figured out. We have to keep pressing on and pressing through and going to where God's leading us, all the way. Past good. Past green. All the way to glorious. 

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